I met CJ on Reddit where he co-founded AJelqForYou , a forum dedicated exclusively to the dark art of at-home penis enlargement (or PE for short). There he goes by M9ter (the 9 alludes to his supposed size) and, over the years, has come to be respected as a true wizard of the wand.

Anyone familiar with Reddit knows that most forums of this ilk are breeding grounds for porn and trolls. But this online space feels more like a congenial clubhouse than an unwholesome hideout. A weekly new user thread garners a stream of friendly questions. A moderators note welcomes men of all sizes to belong and contribute.

Part of the neighborly vibe is born out of the communitys core values, which CJ summarizes as safety first, size second. (Note: According to medical experts, "safety" and "at-home penis enlargement" never go hand-in-handmore on that important point later.)

Still, the remains highly NSFW (youve been warned). One thread supplies a healthy debate between the benefits of training for length versus girth. Another, called Photo Proof, hosts pictures of members johnsons, some yanked up against classroom rulers, others strangled with measuring tape.

Yellow tape measure in meters and inches in a spiral
Yellow tape measure in meters and inches in a spiral
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CJ tells me hes been researching this topic for more than 20 years, and that the subreddits name itself is an homage to , one of the oldest and most popular enlargement methods that involves sliding the okay grip down the shaft at half-mast.

After tearing a vein during the early years of his practice, CJ now eschews the technique. However, hes spent the time in between experimenting with a full menu of other options that (he claims) have grown his sausage from a .

I cant help but grimace as he details various manual stretches, pressure holds, and shaft squashes. Beads of sweat appear on my brow when he moves on to describe the hangers, pumps, and extenders that sound more like medieval torture devices than groin-friendly tools.

Accessories can cost well into the hundreds of dollars. One retailer even offers a that would fit right with the decor at Trump Tower.

But CJ recommends a more economical approach (at least to start). And he spent no more than a handful of change on the quick-release that he uses on the base of his penis to trap blood and push his erection past one hundred percent.

When considering my own view on these terrifying routines, I discover far more empathy than you might expect. During my years as an Olympic fencer, I secretly battled and found myself constantly trying to reconcile my confidence as an athlete with my insecurity as a man.

Ive since recovered, but I feel a deep connection to these mentheir vulnerability, their desperation, their pain. And yet, I cannot for the fucking life of me figure out why they insist on treating their hardware like a drunken plumber mishandling an unruly pipe.

Which is why I ask CJ to be my guide, my male enhancement Sherpa of sorts, as I ascend into the thin air of this strange and mysterious subculture.

I hope that, with my past experience and his expert footnotes, I can begin to understand. But I also know that to do so, Ill need to leave the comfortable grounds of AJelqForYou and return to the source, to embed myself among online PE pioneers that first brought these routines to the masses.

Man is sitting in bed behind his laptop
Man is sitting in bed behind his laptop
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The three major penis enlargement forums, , , and , all date back to the early aughts and boast monthly visitor numbers well into six-figures (by comparison, AJelqForYou has 16K members).

Many men (CJ included) hold accounts across multiple sites, making it difficult to estimate the size of the overall community. But its safe to say that the number is well within the range of a fearsome standing army.

It only seems fitting that I should spend the majority of my time on the largest of the three, Thundersplace (~500K monthly visitors). When I arrive at the homepage, I note that, as compared to the futuristic fonts and seamless scrolling one encounters on the modern web, the site looks positively ordinarya paint-by-numbers assembly of panels, text, and boxes.

But as I dig into the first post, a 1600-word, scholarly assessment on Platelet Enriched Plasma injections (you know where) , the amateurish design suddenly seems intentional, as if to say, Were too busy doing important work to spend time making this look good for you.

On the sign-up form, Im greeted by a disclaimer, scripted in red: be aware that the exercises discussed on this forum have the potential to cause injury. You do them at your own risk. And the next few screensguidelines, FAQs, and 101sall retain the mildly irritated and patronizing tone deployed by so many internet moderators.

I know better than to pick my handle on a whim. To open a dialogue with these men, they must trust me. So, Ill have to blend in with screen names like Rambone, Egotesticle, and Vincent Van Cock.

The avatars are even worse. Screenshots from porn abound. One profile bears a picture of an enormous tree with the Comic Sans caption: Women love Redwood. I stumble across an old Shania Twain album cover, which seems out of place until my mind summons the wailing melody of That Dont Impress Me Much.

Because Im a newbie, I cant upload an avatar (theres a two-week waiting period for that). But, in the type box for my new handle, I enter Broadsword, a name that brings a rush of creative satisfaction until Im notified that its already taken. Ill have to settle for Longsword instead.

\"I begin to wonder, is this all just hustle porn for your peen?\"

This seems an appropriate time to mention that although this name is context-appropriate, its not aspirational. As far as that department goes, Im about as average as it comes. And for many years, I was too worried about my bedroom performance to give a hoot about my size.

The specter of that mentality persists today, and not even CJs assurances can convince me to put my actual sword at risk. But I remember my high school days when all my friends could talk about was the growth of their sprouting peas.

As a late bloomer, I was, of course, curious about how I stacked up. But in Thundersplace, I need not ask. Members place their measurements front and center. With acronyms like BPSFL (Bone Pressed Stretched Flaccid Length) and MSEG (Mid-Shaft Erect Girth), many profiles read like the Enigma code.

It takes some time to orient myself amidst this alphanumeric soup, but Im soon immersed in a language that, given my Olympic background, is eerily familiar. One man worries hes overtraining. Another discusses his two on, one off rest schedule. A third scribbles fervently about his monster gains. And suddenly it hits me: PE is like CrossFit for your penis.

And, like in the fitness world, there are those that hock their own proprietary spin. One member coins a move he calls the firegoat roll (like pressing pastry dough between your palms). Others link off to paid webinars and affiliate products. Even CJ, whos counseled hundreds of men for free, sells his own ebook to justify the amount of time he invests in his passion.

Bakers putting bread to a band for oven
Bakers putting bread to a band for oven
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However, the snake-oil is less prevalent than youd expect, and the overall vibe is shockingly earnest. Far more men offer attaboys and advice than censure and critique. And Im genuinely touched when I read a mans post signature, which says that participating in the community helped him (all literal interpretations aside) grow as a man.

PE veterans on Thundersplace have a lot to say to newbies on the topic of effort and persistence. I wade through bizarre invocations of Yoda (Do or do not, there is no try) and Costner (If you build it, they will cum). I even managed to dig up one of CJs posts that proselytizes a philosophy he calls the Diamond Method (Stress + Time = Growth). And I begin to wonder, is this all just hustle porn for your peen?

And if this effort-focused ethos is toxic for , it seems heedless to promote to men who are unaware of the degree to which their physical and mental wellbeing are at stake. Again, my mind returns to the gym where I have watched far too many beginners fling weights overhead with reckless abandon.

When I ask CJ about this, he confirms that most serious injuries occur among newcomers that possess more exuberance than knowledge. Which is why he co-created a that puts enhancing techniques on a scale from 1 (inflammation or rash) to 10 (disfigurement or death).

\"These practices are seriously dangerous.\"

, a urologist at NYU Langone, is not inclined to support these men's pursuits. He points to numerous flaws with the approach, notably the absence of medical oversight or research objectivity. These practices are seriously dangerous, he saysand, in some cases, theyre akin to buying a ticket to the emergency room.

After Dr. Cohen gives me a quick refresher on the anatomy of the penis, I can see why. The organ is a complex system of arteries, veins, and tissues. Trauma to any one of those components can restrict blood flow, deposit scar tissue, destroy nerve endings, or worse.

I need look no further than the injuries and treatments section of Thundersplace to observe these consequences in real life. There, men write posts with titles like I have lost everything after PE and Jelqing has destroyed my life, often furnishing their accounts with photographic proof of their wilted willies.

To get a sense for the impact of these warnings, I message a handful of men on Thundersplace and PEGym about their personal experience with enlargement techniques.

A 19-year-old with the handle somedudehere tells me that he wishes that he never found the community. After an incident with a weighted hanger that he described as dead dick, he now feels that the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros. Another injured member called halflife tells me that he continues to practice in spite of his mounting apprehension, because he just cant accept his penis the way it is. A user who goes by Oxygin tells me he was initially excited by his progress, but ultimately decided that 1-2 inches wasnt worth his manhood.

Some users are skeptical of others' injury claims. On forums like these, trust is earned through volume (one PE veteran on Thundersplace has nearly 6,500 posts to his name). And moderators often cry troll when new members post complaints of a broken dick. CJ chalks most of this up to scare tactics, an effort by internet mischief makers to stir men up and get attention. But Im not so sure. Having written about my own struggles, I recognize familiar patternsthe specificity, the anguish, the helplessness.

Worse, PEGym contains a number of threads with ruminations about suicide by those who claim to have suffered debilitating PE injuries or perceive themselves to be of insufficient size. In most cases, moderators immediately point them to resources and hotlines. But, even with CJs caveat in mind, many of these accounts read like genuine cries for help.

Considering the depths of despair that some of these men face, I have to ask: How can this all be worth it? In other words, is bigger really better?

Man's hands holding white measure tape on pastel blue background. Mock up for body slimming, weight loss or dressmaker's offer or other ideas. Closeup. Point of view shot. Empty place for text. Top view.
Man's hands holding white measure tape on pastel blue background. Mock up for body slimming, weight loss or dressmaker's offer or other ideas. Closeup. Point of view shot. Empty place for text. Top view.
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In 2015, researcher and neuroscientist Nicole Prause sought an when she asked seventy-five women to indicate their preference from a collection of 3D-printed phalluses.

On average, women chose a penis only slightly larger than the norm. However, Prause also notes that, in the survey, a cohort of female participants reported ending a relationship because their partner was too big.

Those results, in conjunction with another study that revealed that men female ideals, suggest not only that satisfaction is a matter of fit, but also that these masculine fears are largely unfounded.

When I ask Prause what she thinks of this obsession with huge, she points my attention back to ancient Greece, a time when a small penis was in line with and a large one was considered vulgar or grotesque. Sadly, thats no longer true today. And, taking into account that commenting on penis size remains a powerful act of both and , theres no question that our culture edges men towards apprehension.

Which is partially why the lion share seem unable to escape this fundamental insecurity. One study pegged size anxiety at nearly of the male participants. Another reported even among men that perceived themselves to be averagely endowed.

The solution, however, isnt as simple as making the penis bigger. Approximately undergo enlargement surgery each year, but a by Kings College London noted that the procedure not only comes with significant risk (the possibility of a non-functioning, disfigured, or insensate penis) but also delivers satisfaction rates that are no higher than 20 percent. It stands to reason that if highly-trained doctors cant deliver the desired result (feeling good about yourself), its absolutely looney tunes for men to believe that they can do better at home.

The more I think about it, the more I see that the root motivation is simple to explain but difficult to understand. Many of the men, CJ included, refer back to a single moment when a partner rejected them for their size.

My own parallel experience occurred the first time I failed to perform in the bedroom, an event so emotionally traumatic that, for years, I could not escape the flashbulb memory burned into my brain.

These are the basic ingredients of obsession, a word that appears in more than a few personal stories. And in the same way that I was maniacally driven to achieve (academically and athletically), I suspect many of these men go to these extraordinary lengths because no number will ever be big enough.

Dr. Cohen tells me about one of his patients that, despite extraordinary professional success and a normal penis, could not escape the overwhelming feeling that he would never measure up. Cohen ultimately recommended therapy, which seems like the most sensible approach considering that its been shown to be an for even the most extreme cases of body dysmorphia.

Sad man in bed with laptop
Sad man in bed with laptop
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When I message CJ about this, I cant help but get the sense that, within this community, offering this advice would be like throwing a life vest to drowning man whose arms are tied behind his back. CJ concedes that counseling can be helpful, but bats it away as the primary solution. Its hard for men to overcome being rejected for their size, he says, with therapy that tells them that size doesn't matter.

However, I find this to be a mischaracterization of the approach. Therapy doesnt really tell you anything. Instead, it acts as a mirror, reflecting back your beliefs, then providing the tools to adjust them.

Seeking help from a psychologist was one of the best decisions I made during my recovery because it forced me to confront my confidence-ravaging fixation that I would always be broken.

Perhaps this is CJs engineering background bubbling to the surface, but he appears to espouse a more independent approach, claiming that PE teaches men patience and the ability to apply solve their own problems.

And theres the rub, the moment when the most dangerous belief endemic to at-home PEand toxic masculinity in generalrears its ugly head: I dont need help; Ill go it on my own.

Many men would rather be lost in the fog of confusion and despair than stop and ask for directions. However, in the case of PE, they are asking for directions, just not from the park ranger at the official information booth. Instead, theyve turned down a dark road and accepted a crinkled, hand-drawn map from a man whose real name theyll never know.

And while this is an uncharitable description of CJ, who seems to be a genuinely nice person who cares about the men on his forum, theres a reason why this community remains in the shadows. Anonymity is the opposite of accountability. And without accountability, what do you do when people truly get hurt?

Nevertheless, my heart bleeds for these men because Ive been there, standing at the ledge, staring into the darkness, grappling for a solution. And this is how I know that the answer lies not in taking matters, literally, into their own hands, but, instead, in finding someone to talk to that can actually help.

*CJ Major is an alias used by M9ter to protect his online anonymity.